A confidential new memo has come out listing, in great detail, how care was poorly managed in Blue Care’s Pioneer Lodge.

While the contents of the memo might be shocking to some, especially families who have loved ones in aged care, it may not come as a surprise to people who work in the industry.

The memo, which was circulated among staff, revealed that the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) found;

  • Observed a staff member assist 4 residents with their medication, including drops and nasal spray, but did not sanitise their hands between each resident.
  • Staff reported during their interviews with the assessment team, that there are 3 attempts made to feed the resident and if those 3 attempts fail, the food is discarded and the resident does not get fed.
  • Medications that had been left in residents room without confirmation that the resident was self-medicating.
  • Observed a staff member standing and feeding two residents at the same time.
  • Observed a resident who was calling out for help, with her head hanging over the side of the bed rail and the call bell on the floor. The assessor had to find someone to assist this resident who needed to go to the toilet.
  • Staff reported during their interviews with the assessors that residents are sponged instead of being showered related to time constraints.
  • Overheard staff members saying that they did not know where to access stocks of certain supplements that were required by the residents.

These are clear systematic failings which are not unique to this one Queensland facility. While the facility has been covered extensively by the media, it’s important to note that this one place is not an isolated incident.

Problems like those listed in the memo evolve for a number of reasons, and it often comes down to two things – money and staff.

Many aged care staff are poorly funded – this is why many families are spending as little as $6 a day to feed each resident. It’s also the reason why there are a low number of nurses and carers on duty at any one time.

The low staffing is what leads to carers and nurses finding themselves rushed off their feed to manage their workload.

Many of the staff mean well and, you’d find, they do genuinely care about the residents. But in order to cope, they end up cutting corners, trying to find ways to save time.

According to the memo, there was “significant feedback to the assessment team from both residents and staff, that there is inconsistency in staff, that there are not enough staff and that the staff are too busy.”

This is not a unique problem, but something that almost every aged care worker would agree with.

The staff that are showing up to work every shift – their morale is low, and many are on the cusp of burnout and compassion fatigue. It’s not their fault though, the system is not supporting them.

The issue isn’t whether they are going to fix these things – this facility, like any other facility who are caught making such mistakes, have promised to endeavour remedies and solutions.

This facility, in particular, have brought on external advisors as a part of their overhaul. Other in their position might find that they need to implement more training, or hire more staff to help out with the growing number of residents.

Fixing the problem is good, it would be excellent if these mishaps were never to happen again to the vulnerable residents.

But what should also be acknowledged is how can these problems be prevented to begin with.

If these are systemic failings are seen far and wide across the sector, there must be systematic solutions that can be put in place.

Or maybe it’s time to look at the facilities that are doing these things right – adequate feeding, proper cleaning and bathing, overall high quality care – and learning from them.

While the failing seen here are common, it would be unjust to say that every facility is doing this. Undoubtedly, there are facilities that are offering high quality care who could be commended for what they do.

And the industry should be learning from them, not punishing those who are not working well.  

There is no reason whatsoever why aged care residents should have to go through what so many residents are facing today.

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